White & African American Ward – Sheffey family links in Speedwell, Wythe Co., VA

When researching my African American Sheffey family relations in Wythe County, VA, I’ve continued to find more links between them and the white Ward family who lived in Speedwell, Wythe County, VA. This same family may or may not also have a connection with the African American wards who married in to the Sheffey family (see my previous post: Family mystery: African American Wards of Wythe County, VA. (republished with an update), http://genealogyadventures.net/2013/12/15/family-mystery-african-american-wards-of-wythe-county-va/)

The connection between the white Wards and the African American Sheffeys was one which lasted through the Reconstruction Era of American history. All I know for certain is that these Sheffey kinsmen were servants in the Ward household after the Civil War. Whether the Ward family ever owned any of my Sheffey ancestors remains undetermined. What follows is what I’ve been able to piece together from digital archives on the internet.

Ballard Ephraim Ward  & Jacob Sheffey

Jacob Sheffey in the Ward household in 1870
Jacob Sheffey in Ballard Ward’s household in 1870 – click for larger image

The 1870 Census return for Speedwell, Wythe County, VA shows Jacob Sheffey (born abt 1825) as a day farm labourer for Ballard E Ward. It would appear that Jacob suffered a physical malady. The census has him as either ‘deaf and dumb’, ‘blind’ or ‘idiotic’. I don’t know which actually applied to him. While there was also an ‘insane’ option too, I somehow doubt this was a possibility. There were too many Ward children in the household for that to be likely.

In trying to push Jacob’s story back further, I looked at slave schedules and census returns for Ballard Ward’s father, William Ward. I have been unable to find a record that would place Jacob as a slave owned by William Ward. Until one surfaces, I can’t make that assumption.

Then again, I’ve also struggled to place Jacob within his proper context in the Sheffey family tree. This isn’t the same Jacob Sheffey, Sr. of Smyth County, VA. who was my 3 x great grandfather. Nor is he the same person as Jacob Sheffey, Jr., also a resident in Smyth County.

So, for the time being, this is as far as his story goes.

Benjamin E Ward & Darthonla Nellie Sheffey

Nellie Sheffey family tree
Darthonla Nellie Sheffey family tree – click for larger image

I am not certain how Benjamin Ward of Grayson County, VA is related to the Wythe County, VA Wards. There’s quite a few conflicting accounts covering this. I’m making the best assumption that I can in that they were cousins. That seems to be the general consensus.

How Nellie Sheffey, as she was known, of Smyth County, VA came to be in his household as a domestic servant is also unknown. Again, I presume it was through a Ward family connection. Yet, there she is in 1880:

Darthonla Nellie Sheffey in Benjamin E Ward 's household in 1880
Darthonla Nellie Sheffey in Benjamin E Ward ‘s household in 1880 – click for larger image

Nellie would go on to marry Anthony Collins and eventually settle in Rutherford County, North Carolina.

Lilburn Sheffey & William and Jennie Sheffey

Back to Speedwell, VA and this time the Ward family connection is through Lilburn Sheffey.

William Sheffey & JaneSheffey in Lilburn Ward's household in 1880
William Sheffey & JaneSheffey in Lilburn Ward’s household in 1880 – click for larger image

1880 saw Nellie Sheffey from Smyth County, VA as a domestic servant in Benjamin E Ward’s household. In the same year, William Sheffey and Jennie Sheffey, presumably siblings, were domestic servants in Lilburn Ward’s household back in Speedwell, Wythe County, VA. There’s also a small Sheffey infant. I’ve been able to determine if her parent was Jennie or William. Nor have I been able to place either William or Jennie in the overall Sheffey family tree.

The really intriguing thing about this arrangement is the family living next door to Liburn Ward and his household – which included two live-in domestics from the Sheffey family – was Iazwell Sheffey and his family. Is there a connection between William, Jennie and Iazwell? Given their ages, was Iazwell their father? It would make sense for two of his older children to go to work for their next door neighbour.

Alternatively, the majority of Iazwell’s siblings and their families can be found in Marion, Smyth County, Virginia, where he himself lived in 1870. So where William and Jennie his nephew and niece?

It’s another item that warrants further research.

If Iazwell turns out to be William and Jennie’s father, then that would make them Nellie Sheffey’s cousins. All three youths would all be Jacob Sheffey and Elsey George’ grandchildren (Nellie was the daughter of James Mitchell Zachariah Sheffey, Iazwell’s brother).

And Lilburn Ward’s connection to the Ward family?  If the Ward family trees I’ve seen are correct, he was the brother of Ballard E Ward, the gentleman with whom I began this post. One brother recommending servants from the same family that had previously provided trusted servants would make perfect sense. My Sheffey kin were clearly known. trusted and liked (if that’s the appropriate word) by their Ward employers in the Reconstruction Era.

The Nuckolls Connection

I can’t wrap this post up without mentioning Ballard Ward’s two wives, two sisters from the Nuckolls family: Amelia Gwyn Nuckolls and Sophia L Nuckolls. What’s the connection?  Major Henry Lawrence Sheffey (son of the German immigrant, Johann Adam Sheffey) took Sena Nuckolls as his second wife.  She was the mother of his son Ezra Nuckolls Sheffey.

Henry Sheffey family group
Henry Sheffey family group – click for larger image

In other words, Sena and her son Ezra were kin to Ballards wives. Henry Sheffey, his wife Sena and son Ezra owned a number of the my Sheffey kin in and around Marion, Smyth, Virginia (This is the same place Iazwell Sheffey and his family lived in 1870. It was the place where many of his siblings remained). Ezra was certainly a contemporary of the two Nuckolls sisters and could have also recommended these  Sheffeys to his kinswomen.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the white and African American Sheffeys maintained apparently good relations with one another after the Civil War: my Sheffey ancestors continued working for the family in Virginia and moved to West Virginia and the Mid West with their descendants. It’s a connection to this particular story and history that can’t be discounted. It’s another potential piece of the puzzle.

I’ve written to a few Ward family members via Ancestry.com for more information. And also the hope that lurking somewhere within their family is correspondence which mentions these lost Sheffeys or, better still, a copy of any photographs of them. Either would be like gold dust.

2 thoughts on “White & African American Ward – Sheffey family links in Speedwell, Wythe Co., VA

    1. Hi Rich. I have. Unfortunately, the Wards in Wythe and Smyth Counties didn’t register accounts. So there’s no information about them in the Freedmen’s Records. I’ve also checked officers letters and records and relief records…and there’s nothing.

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